Writers Have to Write

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author Susan Coryell sharing a lifelong passion for writing and the long, winding road to publication.

Here’s Susan!

susancoryellWe writers know who we are; writers have to write. That about sums up my “Second Act” in life.

What happens when a full-time career/working mom knows she is a writer and feels the need to write with simply no way of making time to do so? I believe it was the late Erma Bombeck, a writer of humorous columns, who laughed at her own solution to the problem: “There is a lot of untapped time between midnight and five a.m.”

Not only was I an active working mother—I fancied myself the busiest mom in the East. Full-time public school teacher, department chair, soccer mom, Sunday school teacher, night-student in grad school, mother of three and wife of a small business owner (who worked 80-hour weeks)—to name a few of my titles. Oh, did I mention I was trying to write a novel?

Miraculously, I somehow completed what I now call my “Disney Novel.” The young adult mystery involved twin boys, one a pitcher and one a catcher, who telepathized their signals on the ball diamond. Though probably not publishable, the work proved to me that I could write a story consisting of 50,000 or more words—with a beginning, middle and end. You’d think I would have been satisfied, happy to prove myself and move on with life on Muppet Manor with my family. Right?

eaglebaitAlas, Doubleheader only whetted my appetite to write more, more, more. So, I began working on another young adult novel—this one an anti-bully book with a 14-year-old male protagonist. I worked only on my summers “off” from teaching—posting daily notices on my closed office door that suggested my kids should not disturb me unless they were “bleeding profusely.” It took three years to complete Eaglebait.

While sponsoring a middle school literary magazine at Columbia Press Scholastic awards (yes, I also was in charge of the lit mag at my school), I said to myself, “Hey, you’re in New York. Let’s try to find a literary agent.” Luck prevailed and on the second day at Columbia, I met a guy who knew about a great agency in Chicago for YA books . They took on Eaglebait, secured a contract with Harcourt, and my writing journey began to take shape. Or, so I thought.

Even though Eaglebait won some impressive awards, Harcourt pulled it after 14 months, with no explanation. And, though I had plenty of other writing ideas, I threw in the literary towel until retirement years later. It was just too difficult what with the children merging into teenager-hood.

But then…my Second Act!

Retirement to a lakeside cottage was a godsend for this writer. I mucked around for several years doing free-lance for a pittance and writing a lot of local press for nothing. Not that I was wasting my “talent,” but I longed to plunge into novel writing again. That’s where I am at my creative best. And so, I picked up on a mystery/Gothic idea I had contemplated some years back—adjusted the setting to fit my retirement locale—and I have never turned back. The Wild Rose Press published A Red, Red Rose in 2013 and the sequel, Beneath the Stones this past April of 2015. I am currently writing the third novel in the series—as yet unnamed. In between writing these cozy mystery/Southern gothics, I was able to update Eaglebait with cyber-bullying and publish it through Amazon in e-book format.

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If there is a moral to my story, I believe it would be: Since writers know who we are and writers have to write, we must never lose faith; the window for writing will open somehow, some way, some time. I found my muse in the loft of a lake house 20+ years after my novel debut—a Second Act, for sure.

My heartfelt thanks to Joanne for inviting me to guest on her awesome blog!

Bio

A career educator, Susan has taught students from 7th grade through college-level. She earned a BA degree in English from Carson-Newman College and a Masters from George Mason University. She is listed in several different volumes of Who’s Who in Education and Who’s Who in Teaching. Susan belongs to Author’s Guild, Virginia Writers, and Lake Writers. She loves to talk with budding writers at schools, writers’ conferences and workshops. Her young adult anti-bully novel EAGLEBAIT is in its third edition for print and e-book, updated with cyber-bullying. EAGLEBAIT won the NY Public Library’s “Books for the Teen Age,” and the International Reading Association’s “Young Adult Choice.”

A RED, RED ROSE, first in a cozy mystery/Southern Gothic series, was nominated for a literary award with the Library of Virginia. BENEATH THE STONES, the sequel, was released in April of 2015.

The author has long been interested in concerns about culture and society in the South, where hard-felt, long-held feelings battle with modern ideas. The ghosts slipped in, to her surprise.

When not writing, Susan enjoys boating, kayaking, golf and yoga. She and her husband, Ned, love to travel, especially when any of their seven grandchildren are involved.

Where to find Susan…

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

Joanne here!

Susan, thanks for sharing your inspiring journey. Good luck with all your literary endeavors.

Mondays for Mermaids

Today, I’m launching a series to honor those fascinating creatures that have enchanted humankind for centuries. A life-long fan, I’ve written two books (and am planning a third) about the mermaids of the Mediterranean Kingdom.

In Between Land and Sea, I introduced an overweight, middle-aged ex-mermaid who uses a magic tablet to reinvent herself. I continue her story in The Coming of Arabella, and add a psychological twist: a mermaid sister who is somewhere on the Narcissist/Sociopath continuum.

Over the coming weeks, I will focus on different aspects of the mermaid psyche, history, and lifestyle.

I’ll start with Mermaid History.

mermaidhistoryIn Greek mythology, Sirens had beautiful voices and cruel hearts. Many less-than-enchanting stories have been written about Sirens distracting mariners and causing them to walk off decks or run their ships aground. More spiteful Sirens would not hesitate to squeeze the life out of men and drown them.

In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus went to great lengths to avoid being seduced by the hypnotic music of the Sirens. He ordered his men to stuff balls of wax into their ears while approaching the Sirens’ island off the coast of Greece. And he tied himself to the ship’s mast so he would not be able to jump off, swim to shore or do anything that would endanger his own life or that of the crewmen. According to Greek legend, Odysseus is the only man in the world who actually heard the Sirens sing and lived to tell about it.

I discovered this four-minute short on YouTube. Mermaid enthusiasts will recognize scenes from the the movies Odyssey and Splash. The background music is Caribbean Blue from Enya.

Enjoy!

Enter to win a $10 Starbucks gift card here.

10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Deciding to Write a Novel

I’m thrilled to welcome Soul Mate author Julie Doherty to the Power of 10 series.

Here’s Julie!

JULIED1. IT IS A CRAFT THAT MUST BE LEARNED AND PRACTICED

Confession time: I am not, and never have been, an insatiable reader. As a child, I loved Ingalls-Wilder’s LITTLE HOUSE series, and in my teens, I discovered the Brontës and Jane Austen. Our family had little money, though, to spend on books, and I rarely thought about using the school library for fun reading. The library was only a place to study, copy stuff verbatim out of encyclopedias, and ogle the smart boys.

I’ve been a storyteller my whole life, though, so when someone suggested I write a book, I thought, Why not? How hard can it be?

Um, it’s pretty hard, and it might surprise you (like it surprised me) to learn that you don’t just sit down and fluidly pen a story. There’s a craft to it, something a practiced reader knows intuitively from the many hours spent with a book in her hands.

My first completed novel was a disaster, but that didn’t stop me from querying every agent and publisher in Jeff Herman’s “Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents.” Amid the rejections stuffed daily into my mailbox was the response of one agent who’d written notes in the margins of my submission. “Head hopping . . . Whose POV are we in?”

WHAT? I knew then there was more to writing a novel than merely telling a story. I began anew, picked up every how-to book I could get my hands on, and—TA DA!—I started reading. I’m glad I did. Every book, good and terrible, teaches me something.

2. WRITING TAKES A LOT OF TIME

Pick up any book and look at the page. See those words? Yeah, those made it into the final product. For every one of them, there were buckets of others that didn’t. Still, someone wrote all of them, and that took time, the one thing most writers lack.

If you want to write books, you have to carve time out of your day to do it. If you have a day job or a family, this can be problematic. You might need to sacrifice sleep, lunch hours, even picnics, family reunions, your favorite television shows, and . . . clean pants. Eventually, your loved ones will complain, and you’ll need to figure out how to balance your real life with your dream. When you do, email me your secret. My husband is starting to complain about the scant fare at our establishment.

3. YOU WILL FACE REJECTION

Repeatedly. So much, in fact, that you will begin to think you should throw your laptop off a cliff (with you still holding it) and give up writing forever. Don’t. They are a necessary part of your journey, because they force you to reevaluate. Should you be lucky enough to receive a rejection that offers more than “Sorry, not for us,” see it as the gold it is. Even though it’s a rejection, the agent or editor who sent it saw something in your writing that made her want to personalize her response and maybe even give you some direction. That’s a foot in the door. Wedge your size 8.5 stiletto in there and pry that baby open. Use every bit of hope as fuel, make adjustments, and one day, you’ll have a contract.

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4. A CRITIQUE PARTNER IS AS NECESSARY AS BREATHING

It can be hard to show your work to someone, and even harder to have it returned with red marks all over it. But a good, honest critique partner is something you can’t live without. You need that second set of eyes. A regular critique partner will know you and your work so well she’ll even tell you when you’re straying from your voice.

You will need to review your buddy’s work, as well. A lot of us struggle with this, because we don’t like to hurt feelings, or we think we aren’t good enough to offer anyone advice. You have to get over this quickly. Comments on another’s work aren’t a personal attack, and you can word them nicely. “While this is a great sentence, I think it might read better without so many adjectives.” You may find that critiquing another’s work is one of the best ways of learning what works, and what doesn’t.

5. UNLESS YOU WRITE A BREAKOUT NOVEL, THERE WILL BE NO LONG LINES OF READERS WAITING TO SEE YOU AT THE BOOKSTORE

This should be your ultimate dream, but the odds of it happening on your first try are pretty slim. You will have book signings, but they’ll be sparsely attended, and mostly by your family. They are wonderful just the same.

6. MOST OF THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU WILL SEE YOUR WRITING AS A HOBBY

Until my first contract, just about everyone I know saw my writing as a hobby. This can be a downer and make it hard to stay focused. It also means fighting for your writing time, since those around you will ignore the boundaries you try to set. You need to believe, though, because if you don’t believe, who will?

7. WHEN YOUR NOVEL DEBUTS, YOU’LL THINK YOU’VE MADE IT

And you have! Sort of. But because you’re freshly published, you won’t understand that now the real work begins!

8. YOU’LL SPEND AS MUCH TIME MARKETING AS YOU DO WRITING

Unless you land a contract with one of the biggies, you can expect to market your own books. Small presses do what they can, but it’s not much. Your release will debut and sales will be pretty good, because everybody who loves you will support you with a sale. You’ll relax and start calculating how many books you will sell in a year based upon the current rate, and it will be exciting! You’ll allow yourself to think about that old dream again, the one with the huge line waiting to see you at bookstores. Unfortunately, around the three-month mark, if you’ve done no marketing, your book will start slipping in rank, and several months later, you’ll realize you need to get the paddles out and yell, “Clear!” to find your book’s heartbeat again.

I’m at this point now with my debut novel. I’ve done two blog tours, advertised online, sent press releases off to local papers, visited my local library, dropped off cards just about everywhere I can think of, purchased a Google Adwords campaign, Tweeted, Facebooked, blogged . . . it wears a writer down. But by your second book, you’ll have figured out what works (and what doesn’t), so you’ll be smarter and less burdened next time.

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9. YOU WILL GET BAD REVIEWS

I was not prepared for how deeply my first bad review would affect me. No joke, it sent me to therapy and nearly ended my marriage. It wasn’t so much the content of the review, which was quite positive in parts. It was the way in which it was delivered, and it was, after all, my first.

The thing about a book (even yours) is that not everyone will love it. If you don’t believe me, look up your all-time favorite book on Goodreads or Amazon and check out the 1-star reviews. Those people hated the book you love.

When you get your first bad review, you will want to defend yourself and your work. Don’t. And don’t let Aunt Freda defend you, either. This will be hard, because it will seem like some of the reviewers either didn’t read—or skimmed—your book.

Remember why you write. Is it for praise? No, it’s because you love telling stories. So, tell them. If praise comes as a result, smile and strut around for a while. If not, consider whether there’s anything valuable in the critical reviews and then get back to your work-in-progress.

10. YOU WILL STRUGGLE

If you’ve read 1-9 above, then it should be clear that the road to publication is a bouncy one. You’ll tire of working non-stop for little return. You’ll miss your family, clean clothes, a tidy house, and cupboards that are filled with food, not research papers and writing books. You’ll look at the money and time you spend on your dream and wonder if it’s really worth it. Someone will post a bad review and you’ll throw your stack of unread “Romance Writers Reports” against the dining room wall. That’s it! You’re quitting! You’ll storm out of the house and go for a walk and a good, long cry. Halfway around the park, you’ll notice young parents sitting on bleachers watching Little League practice. The guy on the top row isn’t watching his son. He’s watching the single mom three rows down. And your mind begins to wonder . . . will he ever get the nerve to ask her out?

And then you know. You’re infected. Diagnosis: terminal writer.

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Blurb

In twelfth century Scotland, it took a half-Gael with a Viking name to restore the clans to their rightful lands. Once an exile, Somerled the Mighty now dominates the west. He’s making alliances, expanding his territory, and proposing marriage to the Manx princess.

It’s a bad time to fall for Breagha, a torc-wearing slave with a supernatural sense of smell.

Somerled resists the intense attraction to a woman who offers no political gain, and he won’t have a mistress making demands on him while he’s negotiating a marriage his people need. Besides, Breagha belongs to a rival king, one whose fresh alliance Somerled can’t afford to lose.

It’s when Breagha vanishes that Somerled realizes just how much he needs her. He abandons his marriage plans to search for her, unprepared for the evil lurking in the shadowy recesses of Ireland—a lustful demon who will stop at nothing to keep Breagha for himself.

Trailer

Bio

Julie is a member of Romance Writers of America and Central PA Romance Writers. When not writing, she enjoys antiquing, shooting longbow, traveling, and cooking over an open fire at her cabin. She lives in Pennsylvania with her Irish husband, who sounds a lot like her characters.

Where to find Julie

Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

84 and Still Going Strong!

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have actress and author Charmaine Gordon sharing an inspiring journey that has spanned six decades.

Here’s Charmaine!

charmainegordonPicture this, dear readers. Dinosaurs roamed the earth. I was the good daughter, the good wife, the good mother of way too many kids. My high school sweetheart and I married into Air Force Pilot bliss during the Korean War. From sheltered Chicago city life, I moved into a different world where flags flew, salutes all the time and husbands were on TDY-temporary duty-all the time so I became strong at twenty, no longer protected. The joke was when the men flew home with much fanfare, bands playing and all, they said to each other, “What’s the second thing you’ll do when you get home?” The answer was always, “Take off my parachute.” Nine months later many babies were born. Oh, what a time.

We became civilians, moved from one state to another and settled in NY. When my youngest, finally a girl, turned sixteen, an actress friend told me to head to the city. She’d seen me in community plays and said I was way ready to perform big time. I didn’t even know how to get to NYC. Sweet hubs drew a map and I got there. Soon I became a small fish in a big pond in middle age. Movies, daytime drama, and stage kept this homemaker busy with time to cook, help with our business, and still take care of the six kids. Until my voice was stricken with spasmodic dysphonia toward the end of a play Off-Broadway and I realized my Sweet Time was over. No more Working Girl, the movie singing happy Birthday to Melanie Griffith and sharing a hot dog with Harrison Ford. No more lunch with Anthony Hopkins during another movie and so much more.

Creative juices still flowed. In my seventies at this point, what to do? Without training, I had the nerve to write a book. Vanilla Heart Publishing asked for a few chapters of To Be Continued and an author was born.

You need courage to keep moving on, my friends. Don’t let anything get in your way. Believe in yourself and keep going. Wake up each day and greet yourself with a smile. I’m 84 and loving it. Married again after my first love suddenly passed on, we take care of each other. I wish you all the best. Remember “it isn’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Who knows what Act Three will bring but I’m ready.

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Here’s a quote from a review for No Time for Green Bananas, a long short story in one of my mature romance/suspense series:

From LAS Reviewer

Delightful, heartwarming and unexpected, No Time for Green Bananas delivers an older main character still yearning for adventure – and still with something to learn about life and friendship.

Celeste Hamlin’s suffered a loss but she’s tough. She sets off to re-traverse an old and wonderful adventure; alone this time, not entirely strong enough, but determined. Unexpected help crops up along the way, but she can’t let herself rely on others, can’t waste time on friendship, can’t imagine forward to much future.

Paul is patient and endearing but she isn’t looking for any future relationship here; in fact, she seems to be determined to live in the past. Yet, Paul is hard to ignore:

“A lone guitarist played acoustic guitar over in a corner. Jazz renditions of old songs. Beautiful and so interesting on that kind of instrument. Softly he sang, “It seems we’ve stood and talked like this before…”

Readers will fall for Paul and so hope that Celeste will stop telling herself things like “Absurd you foolish old woman” and allow herself a chance.

Kudos to the publisher here. The author definitely stepped outside the box on the character and storyline. No Time For Green Bananas is a real gem of a short story that will delight romance fans and especially more mature readers.”

Thank you, Joanne, for this wonderful opportunity to meet you and your following.

Where to find Charmaine…

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon

Joanne here!

Wow!! I’m in awe of your extraordinary talents and ability to persevere. I hope you will consider writing your memoirs.

10 Favorite Lessons Learned from Two Decades of Animal Care

I’m thrilled to welcome Soul Mate author Ryan Jo Summers to the Power of 10 series. Today, Ryan shares lessons learned from the unforgettable pets in her life.

Here’s Ryan Jo!

ryanjosummersYears ago I was director of a non-profit dog rescue group. Aside from that, I was also active in other animal welfare activities. I also owned a boarding kennel/ pet supply/ training center for a decade sandwiched between working as a veterinary technician. Consequently, many of the animals I have had or known were the largest teachers in my life. Here are ten of my favorites.

Expectations: Becky came to our rescue as a ten month old stray. She was a pretty blue merle Australian Shepherd and something mix. And she had no manners, lessons or skills. She was a mess. Teaching her the basics in obedience was challenging and truthfully, while she was friendly, I did not hold much for her future expectations. She was a wild child, prone to impetuous overreactions.

About ten months after she came to us, a young couple adopted her. One day out of the blue, they called, wanting to share what she had done. Breath held, I waited, expecting the worse.

Seems their toddler son had been in the front yard and tried to bolt into the road. Mom wasn’t fast enough to catch him, but Becky was. Agile on her feet, Becky skillfully blocked the toddler’s advances with her body until Mom could catch him.

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As great as that was, it got better. About a year later Mom was in the house with a new baby and Dad was out with the young son and Becky. A friend stopped by and the men got to talking. Becky’s frenzied barking erupted like a volcano. Dad followed the barking to the horse pasture, where the son stood, surrounded by horses and Becky stood at his side, barking furiously at the horses. So twice Becky saved the young son and showed me she knew how to rise above other’s expectations.

Will- Rescue II (2)Strength of Character: Will was a collie/ German shepherd left tied to the door of a local animal shelter. He was about a year old. The shelter turned him over to us. He had no obvious problems that I could find. In fact, the more time I spent with Will, the more I fell in love with his character. He was steady under pressure and showed great promise of intelligence, loyalty and patience. I contacted Leader Dog in Rochester, asking for him to be evaluated. He scored great so the decision was made to turn Will over to them for further training.

Several months later we received word Will had graduated and was paired with a human as an official Seeing Eye Dog for the Blind. Will showed me to quietly let one’s character and integrity shine through, without a need for words.

Courage: Spencer was a handsome three-month-old tri-color collie pup when he came to us. His breeder wanted to have him destroyed because he didn’t see well. Once we had him vet checked, he was diagnosed as having no eyeballs. Apparently, he’d been born without eyes forming. We also considered euthanizing him, but he didn’t have any apparent issues with his blindness. Once he cautiously explored a new area, he was unstoppable.

Spencer loved to run and play with the other dogs, his courage knew no boundaries and he truly had the heart of a lion. Within a few months, he was adopted by a couple who had previously adopted two sighthounds from other groups—a Greyhound and a borzoi. The blind pup took no time to learn the perimeters of his new home and yard and quickly settled in with his sighted family.

CalRescueTime: Cal was a homely old soul, about six or seven years old, when he came to us from a neighboring county. He was as sweet and gentle as he was ugly. And he was always horribly car sick. He lived with us for three years, until the age of about nine or ten. While we tried to make him comfortable, he still lived in a shelter environment. He was always passed up by the younger, prettier dogs. Our poor ugly duckling, always staying behind when they found new families.

Finally, I suggested it might be more humane for old Cal to be put to sleep. He could have a dignified end instead of languishing in a shelter his final years. One of the volunteers petitioned for more time for him. I granted her thirty days. It’d been three years, what was another month?

The twenty-nine day rolled around and still no interest in our ugly duckling. Day thirty was already set aside for an out of town adoption event. We were taking a litter of adorable puppies. The volunteer begged to take Cal. It seemed almost cruel to take him, with carsickness, to compete against cute puppies.

A family came by our booth, bypassing the playful pups and honed in on homely Cal. Before we could even finish explaining his long history, they wanted him. Turns out they liked the underdogs. The parents had adopted seventeen human kids, all from underprivileged countries and kept a small pet population. They had groomed goats and ponies, deformed cats and now a sweet old dog named Cal. The placement was such a great one, when we had an ugly duckling puppy later, called Dopey, the family wanted him as well. Dopey kept Cal company until he peacefully passed away at the age of thirteen.

Larkin- rescue (2)Regrets: Not all of my favorite memories are happy ones, but the lessons still linger. We took in a tri-color collie/ something mix stray and called him Larkin. He was unique in both appearance and personality. He was short haired, but not a smooth collie, his ears resembled a bat, his tail was bobbed and his eyes were large, round and red. He had an intense personality, never fully relaxed, never fully trusting, not aggressive but not completely friendly either. A true yin-yang. Due to his red eyes and keyed up demeanor, he tended to scare a lot of people. When he worked for me, he was obedient, yet always wired.

About a year into his stay, I realized Larkin would never make a good pet. Unable to trust him around others, I made the sad choice to have him put down. Many years later, Larkin remains one of my greatest regrets in life. I feel I personally failed him.

Now I see opportunities he might have excelled at. If only we’d have had knowledge or connections, he might have had a better ending. Each time I see a military or police dog at work, I can’t help but wonder if Larkin might have found a good fit in there.

Determination: So much can be written about Kip. A stray mahogany collie we took in as a favor for an overbooked group. I learned volumes about separation anxiety, which was his only real fault. Three times he was adopted out and three times he was returned. He could escape from anywhere and non-compliance was the resounding reason of return. The only time he was content and compliant was when he was at my side. However, the rule was Rescues Don’t Stay. So Kip fell into a slot of not being my dog, but never far from me and mingling in whatever my dogs were doing.

For many years he and I were inseparable. He went from about six when we took him in to about thirteen. His body and mind wore down. Finally I made the painful decision to let him go. Though by rules he was never my dog, he accompanied me south when I divorced and moved. And his quiet determination and eyes on his goal earned him a spot forever in my heart. I will always miss Kip, the big, bad, brown dog who knew unquestionably what he wanted.

Fun: Sometimes caring for animals can be fun as well as rewarding. I did some rehabilitation work for orphaned wildlife. My first squirrel I named Chico. He was so tiny he needed to be bottle fed every three hours and kept on a heated pad. Chico grew and learned to climb—quickly. He went from blind, hairless and helpless to flying from shoulder to shoulder almost overnight.

Chico was great fun as he scampered along my arm, my desk or the furniture. All too soon it was time to move Chico to the outdoors and real trees. He made a few trips up the trees, always returning back to my waiting arm. One day he did not return. For a few days I’d spot a squirrel watching me from atop a limb. Chico was back where he belonged, among his own kind.

Opportunities: While volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center I encountered a domestic rabbit that had been captured in a cemetery. Having always liked bunnies, I took him home and he quickly bonded with the rescue collie, Kip, helping to ease his separation anxiety. When I moved south, Jade and Kip both moved with me. When I got involved in another animal rescue group, it was learned that “I do rabbits”. Suddenly the floodgates opened and I inherited three more. Two were rehomed and one I held on to, naming Delainey. About three later I rehomed him with a sweet little girl who always wanted a bunny.

Jade and Kip (2)

Because of the knowledge I gained from having rabbits, I was able to publish three different articles correcting misconceptions people have about rabbit care. Due to a random opportunity, I also regularly post Easter Bunny warnings, doing my part to slow down the harm done to rabbits each spring.

Trust & Faith: Back in my vet tech days, a client brought a sick kitten in from a feral colony she was caretaker of. The kitten was so wild and fearful, it was difficult to handle her, despite her illness. Over time we bonded and when she was cured, I asked the caretaker if I could adopt her. Kryshnah and I have been together ten years now and her total trust in me still leaves me speechless sometimes. However, for the first four years, no one but me ever saw her when they visited.

ryanjosummerscatsTwo years a smoke tortishell cat showed up at my door one cold November day. She was fearful and hungry. For many long weeks I fed her and tried patiently to let me pet her. Five weeks later I still had not achieved a single ear scratch, but I knew I was making headway because she brought me her month old kitten.

As wild as the winter wind, and no bigger than a dust-bunny, little Avery Faith was determined not to be touched. Gradually mom and daughter’s visits grew more then just a nightly trip. Two years later they live inside and are sweet and loving as any normal cat. Aspen sleeps with me at night, purring contentedly. While visitors still don’t see them yet, I know in time, and with patience, they will trust visitors as much as they trust me.

ryanjosummersdogHope: My last dog died in 2013 at age eighteen. It was nine months before I was ready to replace her. On March 21st, I adopted Ty, a handsome blue merle collie. Ty had spent many years in a terrible hoarding situation. When we first met, he wouldn’t even look at me or let me touch him. I knew what kind of care he would require and I questioned whether I still had that inside me anymore. I had survived a life threatening illness not two years prior and have been battling chronic health conditions, so could I do a service to Ty’s needs?

Hoping so, I finalized the adoption. Now, three months together, his progress has been marked by baby steps, occasional milestones and inevitable backward slips. But we are getting to know—and trust—each other. Our rescue group supporters follow our travels, hoping we succeed.

Bio

Ryan Jo Summers is a North Carolina writer who shares her mountain cottage with several rescue pets. She has been infatuated with the written word since early childhood, writing her first book at age ten. She comes from a long line of wordsmiths, in the form of poets and songwriters. She has had numerous articles and essays and one poem published over the years, many of them dealing with animals and nature. Her debut romance novel was published in 2012, followed by two more in 2014 and those will be followed by two more in late 2015/ early 2016. Her hobbies include painting, doodling cartoons, taking her new dog exploring in the regional national forests, visiting with friends, reading, working wiggly wordfind puzzles and playing Mah Jongg.

Blurb

whencloudsgather‘When Clouds Gather’ is Ryan’s third novel, a suspenseful romance.

Set in tranquil Driftwood Shores, Darby Adams has the perfect life running her bed and breakfast business and caring for her son, Matt and a pack of unwanted animals. Then a guest is found murdered in one of her guestrooms. Suddenly she is the number one suspect.

The surviving family wants to ensure Darby is fully prosecuted so they hire new-in-town Private Investigator Sam Golden to get the evidence that will send her to prison for good. Sam starts his assignment in the guise of a much needed friend for Darby while searching for the evidence to put her away. When strange and scary events begin happening, Sam has to rethink his opinions.

Darby and Sam battle constant dangers, growing closer. Until the day arrives that Sam has to confess his original motives, driving them apart. When a sinister new threat rises, Darby has to decide if she can trust Sam one more time, or risk losing everything.

Where to find Ryan Jo…

Website | Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon

First Act Lessons → Second Act Blessings

14049979_sFormer colleagues, especially those on the cusp of retirement, smile politely and move on to safer topics. Younger friends and relatives frown and ask for clarification. Other creatives prefer to talk about leaving a footprint, sailing beyond the sea of troubles, or discovering new oceans. But to me, the concept of a second act makes more sense. In a play, that’s where the story really takes off and the characters work hard to resolve their conflicts.

A second act is not a “start over from scratch” situation where we erase all the mistakes and lessons of our past. People who continually attempt to relive that first act usually make the same mistakes, encounter frustration and actually make things worse. Unfortunately, we have too many examples of public falls from grace that are continually replicated.

Instead, we should keep in mind William Shakespeare’s advice—What’s past is prologue—and work hard to transform our first act lessons into second act blessings.

Continue reading on Brooke Blogs.

From Schooners to Float Planes…A Writer’s Journey

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author Cheryl Harrington sharing insights from her multi-act life.

Here’s Cheryl!

Act One: Magic

cherylharringtonI wrote my first novel, The Mystery of the Nancy, while on vacation in Wasaga Beach, Ontario. I was twelve years old that summer and my first encounter with the remains of HM Schooner Nancy at a local museum had fired my imagination.

In her glory days, The Nancy was a Great Lakes fur trading vessel. During the War of 1812, she sailed the lakes as a supply ship for the British. Captured and set afire by American forces in 1814, The Nancy sank in Lake Huron near the mouth of the Nottawasaga River.

Over the years, an island formed around the wreck and, eventually, the remains of the schooner were raised and installed in a museum as centrepiece of a park that now bears her name: Nancy Island Historic Site. The old girl had reinvented herself, quite literally, from the ground up. I can’t think of a better tale than HMS Nancy’s to begin a guest post ‘On the Road to Reinvention’. Thanks for having me, Joanne!

That first novel of mine, The Mystery of the Nancy, sparked in me a life-long love of words. It was published in a limited edition of one, in a tatty, blue-covered school notebook, and it met with rave reviews from early readers (Mom, Dad, and Grandma). Sadly, the work was left behind when we returned to the city but, as I recall, my story followed a young sleuth and her chipmunk sidekick as they investigated a mysterious theft from the HMS Nancy Museum.

Storytelling is a powerful thing. Even now, fifty-three years later, I can close my eyes and enter the vast room where the bones of The Nancy rested, watch dust motes drifting in lazy arcs above her hull, and feel the heat of that long-ago summer afternoon. Yes, there is magic in words.

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Interlude (Wherein I Become a Hippy)

Time passed, I married, had three wonderful sons and, in a great leap of faith, left city life behind and moved with my young family to a farm north of Toronto. Hubby and I learned by doing. We grew most of our own food in a vast vegetable garden. We raised chickens, pigs, ducks, and rabbits. Each spring, we tapped maple trees and boiled the sap to make our own maple syrup. In winter, we chopped and carried firewood to heat the house. We lived with perpetual drafts, occasional brown snakes in the basement, and noisy raccoons in the attic. I like to call this my hippy back-to-the-land phase – and it was good. (With the possible exception of snakes in the basement.)

Beyond my trusty journal, not much writing was done during those years. Farm and family kept me happily busy.

And then… I met Anne Norman.

Act Two: Writing Rediscovered

Like me, Anne was a back-to-the-lander. We bonded over play dates with our kids, swapped produce – her goat’s milk for my brown, double-yolk hen’s eggs – and talked about books. One of those book talks morphed into a marathon “what-if” plotting session and our first co-authored book, ROCK SOLID was born. I’ve blogged about our co-writing process at stillpoint: The (co)Writing Life so won’t go into it here other than to say we had an awesome amount of fun. So much, in fact, we went on to write another book together, FAST FOCUS. After years of polishing, submitting, rejections, and revisions, both novels were contracted and published by Avalon Books, a small New York publisher of hardcover library editions. Our shared success was a dream come true for us both.

By this time, our children were grown, the city was rapidly advancing on our rural neighbourhood, and both Anne and I had left farm life behind. Eventually, we said farewell to the co-writing life, too, although we remained great friends and left the door open to working together on another book. Meanwhile, I knew I wanted to try my hand at writing solo. All I needed was a spark of inspiration.

And then… I paid a visit to my dentist.

Act Three: On My Own

While sitting the waiting room, nervously trying to distract myself from the drilling and filling to come, I picked up a magazine and was instantly captivated by the cover story. It was a first-person account of a wild fire, written by a young woman who’d spent her summer working as volunteer forest fire fighter. Inspiration struck and SPARKS FLY was born.

Fond memories of camping and cottaging vacations in the north woods merged with my new fascination with floatplanes to bring the remote setting of Casey Lodge to life. I connected with a young bush pilot who’d flown in isolated locations from northern Canada to Africa and revelled in the romance of flying (and the not-so-romantic reality of roughing it alone in the wilderness). I met with a young geologist and picked her brain about the summer she spent working for a mining company near Red Lake in Ontario’s far north. Her stories of surviving a major forest fire helped me write authentically about fire and about life in the north.

During the writing, my family gave me the ultimate birthday gift: a flying lesson. I was terrified! It was an awesome, unforgettable experience and you can share it with me at stillpoint: Writing Wings. Would I do it again? I get the trembles just thinking about it. But yes, absolutely!

SPARKS FLY was originally published in hard cover by Avalon Books for their library program. In the summer of 2013, the Avalon backlist was sold to Amazon Publishing and over the following months, SPARKS FLY, FAST FOCUS, and ROCK SOLID were re-released under the Montlake Romance imprint. All three are now available for Kindle and in paperback and hardcover formats. I’m delighted to see our stories live on for new readers to discover.

Act Four: That Old Magic

In April of this year, I retired from my day job with great expectations for a new and exciting chapter of life. For me, the best part of retirement has been the luxury of time to focus on writing again. I’m working on another sweet romance, set in coastal British Columbia and featuring an independent young woman who’s faced with difficult choices when her beloved grandfather suffers a debilitating stroke. Also in the works is a cozy mystery with a surprising paranormal twist. I knew I was on the right track with this one when the characters ignored my ideas and took their story in a strange and unexpected new direction. And the magic is back!

What’s next? I don’t know. But I’m excited to find out. Stay tuned for Act Five!

Cheryl’s Books

sparksfly

What happens when a thoroughly modern woman, who longs to return to her roots, meets an old-fashioned hero on her first day home? Sparks Fly. And it doesn’t take a forest fire, smoldering in the distance, to turn up the heat between high school science teacher, Logan Paris, and bush pilot, Mitchell Walker.

Logan’s dream of a bright future for her grandfather’s lodge at remote Thembi Lake hits an unexpected snag when Gramps introduces the handsome pilot as his new partner. It seems that Mitch has plans of his own for Casey Lodge, and Logan is certain they don’t include partnership with a “city girl”. Determined to prove herself and protect her heritage, Logan sets out to unravel the many mysteries of Mitch Walker. Where did he come from? Why is Gramps so willing to trust him with their future? And most disturbing of all . . . what’s she going to do about the undeniable attraction she feels whenever he’s around?

Sparks Fly is “a tender, rich romance that will have readers laughing, crying and holding their breaths.”

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rocksolidfastfocus

Rock Solid is a sweet romance about family, special needs, small town life, and environmental protection. Save the turtles!

Fall in love in New York with Fast Focus – part romantic comedy, part cozy mystery…and Rufus the dog!

Bio

Cheryl Cooke Harrington is a Canadian author based in Toronto. Her novels have been published by Avalon Books (New York), Ulverscroft Press (London), and most recently by Amazon Books under their Montlake Romance imprint. Cheryl’s stories combine sweet romance with a hint of suspense and adventure. Recently retired from a 40-year career as office manager for a landscape architecture firm, she is currently writing another sweet romance and branching out into mystery – cozy with a twist. Between paragraphs, Cheryl serves as personal assistant to Sam the cat and Jazz the opinionated parakeet.

Where to find Cheryl…

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway

Cheryl will award one copy of SPARKS FLY, winner’s choice of either an autographed library edition (hard cover) OR the Kindle edition, PLUS a $5 Starbucks gift card. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter and notified by email. This giveaway is open to residents of the US, Canada, and the UK. (*See Terms and Conditions, below.)

*Terms and Conditions

Coffee/Tea and a Book: Winner will receive one copy of SPARKS FLY by Cheryl Cooke Harrington, winner’s choice of either autographed hard cover OR Kindle edition, PLUS a $5 Starbucks gift card. Giveaway starts June 26, 2015 at 12:00 AM EST and ends July 7, 2015 at 12:00 AM EST and is open to entries from the US, Canada, and the UK. One winner will be chosen at random via Rafflecopter and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. If the winner chooses to receive a print copy of SPARKS FLY, Cheryl Cooke Harrington will send the prize to the winner directly via postal mail. (NOTE: The book will be mailed from Canada on the next business day after receiving winner’s mailing address. Depending on winner’s location, mail delivery may take several weeks or longer.) The prizes offered for this giveaway are free of charge, no purchase necessary. Facebook and Twitter are in no way associated with this giveaway. By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to Cheryl Cooke Harrington alone. She will not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner.

Joanne here!

Cheryl, thanks for sharing your inspiring journey. Best of luck with all your literary endeavors.